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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Making Faces: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

Jessica Joslin writes:

There’s something that I can’t help but love about the strange story of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (1736–1783). Messerschmidt was a technically brilliant and accomplished court sculptor in Vienna. He spent his early years creating masterful, but rather dull, portrait busts of wealthy and powerful patrons. However (and this is where is gets interesting!) during the 1770’s his work underwent a mysterious transformation. He began to create his infamous character heads, a series of grotesque, humorous (and IMHO absolutely marvelous) portrait busts. At the time, it was whispered that an undiagnosed mental illness had prompted the drastic transformation of his work. Shortly thereafter, he was expelled from teaching at the academy, lost many of his patrons, and went into isolation in Bratislava, where he spent the rest of his life working on his character head series. It has always remained unclear whether he was indeed insane, or merely pissed off the wrong people.

link: Coilhouse » Blog Archive » Canonical Grimaces: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt


Alfred said...

I saw these when I was in Vienna a year ago. Disconcerting but a welcome change from the usual run of sleepy portrait busts.


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